Tag Archives: Sarah Palin

More on Sarah Palin, Victim

Per Philip’s earlier post, this Politico article spells out that Sarah Palin’s message of conservative resentment is damaging to conservatism:

…Palin’s skeptics said a successful presidential candidacy would need to be buoyed by genuine policy vision, not merely grievance. For now, however, Palin’s appeal is largely rooted in the sympathy she’s gleaned from her loudly voiced resentments toward the left, the news media and the GOP establishment.

“The appeal of conservatism is supposed to be people taking responsibility for their own actions,” said Labash. “But if you close your eyes and listen to Palin and her most irate supporters constantly squawk or bellyache or tweet about how unfair a ride she gets from evil mustache-twirling elites and RINO saboteurs, she sounds like a professional victimologist, the flip side of any lefty grievance group leader. She’s becoming Al Sharpton, Alaska edition. The only difference being, she wears naughty-librarian glasses instead of a James Brown ‘do.”

Of course, the threat of victimhood conservatism has long been a problem in the Republican Party, but with Palin it has found a voice.  But like Sharpton, such a kind of victimhood is going to be a disaster for the Republican Party.  Those who share Palin’s world view of resentment would resonate with a presidential candidate Palin, but I don’t think even in these harsh economic times if her message would even be attractive to the political middle.

There needs to be some kind of anti-Palin, a compelling politician that can give people an alternative view of conservatism.  Is there one out there?

Always the Victim

I have considerable respect for Judd Gregg and little respect for Sarah Palin.  So it’s no surprise that I found myself nodding along with this article and rolling my eyes at this one.

Clyde Middleton at Liberty Pundits writes:

What troubles me is that I know more about her kids, who they sleep with, her husband, and who he allegedly slept with, than I do about her political positions.  Why?  Because everyone is intent on destroying the woman regardless of what she stands for.  Prove me wrong, Conservatives, for you all are equally guilty.

You are free to support or not support any candidate.  But try focusing on the standards we demand of others:  Attack a candidate based upon their political positions.  Inform each other of those positions and why you disagree.  And keep the cheap shots aimed at the Dark Side, the ones with a D stamped on their foreheads.

The problem, of course, is that Palin has no political positions.  Besides, of course, the usual right-wing populist checklist.  After several years in the public spotlight, she has yet to produce a single idea that is creative and intelligent.  She is an empty shell, a vacuous wind-up doll.  Her platform consists entirely of regurgitating stale Republican talking points from the 1980s.

Attempting to disguise her lack of substance, Palin has made a career out of playing a character, a character capable of stoking cultural resentments in certain parts of Middle America.  Criticisms of Palin tend to sound personal because she has rigged the game that way.  Her “politics” are entirely self-referential.  It’s all about her.  She is the ultimate identity pol, which is why Matt Labash makes a lot of sense when he compares her to Al Sharpton, another unhinged solipsist.

Ironically, Middleton’s insult-laden defense of Palin underscores the notion — voiced wittily by Labash and plainly by many others — that the mama grizzly’s only knows how the play the martyr.

Really, she seems like a fine lady, but she is in way too deep.  The only thing scarier than Vice President Palin is . . . President Palin.

Stop Making Sense

The fallout from the shooting of US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 12 others on Saturday has been both fascinating and frustrating to watch. 

It’s been fascinating because the gun barrels had yet to grow cold when people starting pointing fingers and assigning blame.  It’s frustrating because we seem to be more interested in blame than in stopping for a moment and simply mourning the loss of life.

Since Saturday, everyone has been trying to offer some explaination about what happened.  The one issue that keeps coming up again and again is the tone of political rhetoric in our daily disc0urse.  The more nakedly partisan among us dig up maps used by Sarah Palin and point to the former governor and the larger conservative movement as the problem.  The less partisan bring up calls for more civility.  More than one fellow pastor has called for our political speech to be more charitable.

All of the folks in question swear up and down that such speech is not what killed six people and injured 13 others, but in reality, that is exactly what they are saying.  They are saying inflamed speech, such as the use of crosshairs on an ad by a certain former Alsakan governor, is what lead to the massacre in Tuscon.

But the reality is, we really don’t know why Jared Loughner decided to open fire at a Safeway.  We have a lot of odd writings that don’t seem to make sense.  On Saturday, James Fallows admitted that many an assasin has shot someone for motives that really had nothing to do with anything:

– Leo Ryan, the first (and, we hope, still the only) Representative to be killed in the line of duty, was gunned down in Guyana in 1978 for an investigation of the Jim Jones/Jonestown cult, not any “normal” political issue.
 
– Sirhan Sirhan horribly transformed American politics by killing Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, but Sirhan’s political causes had little or nothing to do with what RFK stood for to most Americans.

– So too with Arthur Bremer, who tried to kill George C. Wallace in 1972 and left him paralyzed.

– The only known reason for John Hinckley’s shooting of Ronald Reagan involves Jodie Foster.

– It’s not often remembered now, but Manson family member Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme tried to shoot Gerald Ford, again for reasons that would mean nothing to most Americans of that time.

– When Harry Truman was shot at (and a policeman was killed) on the sidewalk outside the White Blair House, the attackers were concerned not about Cold War policies or Truman’s strategy in Korea but about Puerto Rican independence.

– The assassinations of William McKinley and James Garfield were also “political” but not in a way that matched the main politics of that time. The list could go on.

And Ross Douthat’s  Monday column shows that the assisnation of John F. Kennedy was not due to the anti-Democratic climate in Dallas at the time:

When John F. Kennedy visited Dallas in November of 1963, Texas was awash in right-wing anger — over perceived cold-war betrayals, over desegregation, over the perfidies of liberalism in general. Adlai Stevenson, then ambassador to the U.N., had been spit on during his visit to the city earlier that fall. The week of Kennedy’s arrival, leaflets circulated in Dallas bearing the president’s photograph and the words “Wanted For Treason.”

But Lee Harvey Oswald was not a right-winger, not a John Bircher, not a segregationist. Instead, he was a Marxist of sorts (albeit one disillusioned by his experiences in Soviet Russia), an activist on behalf of Castro’s Cuba, and a man whose previous plot had been aimed at a far-right ex-general named Edwin Walker. The anti-Kennedy excesses of Texas conservatives were real enough, but the president’s assassin acted on a far more obscure set of motivations.

I think part of the reason there has been all this talk about cooling our political speech is because we want to find some answer for this tragedy.  We want to make sense of the horror.  What better way to make sense of this all than to pin the blame on something or someone else?

But can we really blame it on inflammatory speech?  Crosshairs aside, was anybody really calling for the assasination of Representative Giffords?  And if the culprit is speech, then how in the world do you “cool down” down the rhetoric?  Is this simply a moral problem that can be solved by faith communities or is it something that requires the state to take part?

People are trying hard to find a way to pin a villian, usually a villian that people already don’t like.  It makes this horror easier to understand to our anxious hearts.  But I think the awesome reality is that we don’t understand what is going on.  We want to, but  we don’t.  There is no easy answer to this situation. 

And that scares us.  Because if there is no easy answer, then it means that life can be random, that sometimes things happen for no discernable reason.  We want there to be an easy reason for endangering the life of a public servant and for killing a nine-year-old whose only crime was going to this event to learn more about government.

There is no real way to make sense of this tragedy and I wish others would stop trying to do so. 

What I wish we would do is what Daniel Hernandez did.  Hernandez is an intern at Giffords’ office and after the Congresswoman was shot on Saturday, he stayed by her side and applied bandages to her wounds.  Many people think he might have saved her life.

Instead of pontificating and seeking easy answers, I think we need to simply stand by the side of the hurting.  As blogger Michael Kruse says, we need to be able to grieve and comfort those who mourn.   

The book of Job is a biblical account of a man who goes through immense suffering.  He loses everything- including his children and is visited by his three friends.  Later on, the three friends try to offer reasons for Job’s sufferings, which were never much helpful.  At the beginning, though, they met with Job and just sat with him. 

Sometimes, in times of tragedy, nothing needs to be said.  We just need to sit, mourn and pray for those lost.  We don’t have to make sense of everything.

Why Sarah Entrances Us So

TimothyDalrymple has a great post about the fascination the nation has with Sarah Palin.  He notes that it has less to do with her policies than it does about what she stands for:

The loving and loathing, at least for most, have little to do with her past or her policies. They have to do with her persona. For the populist Right, Sarah Palin is a personification of all that is still good about America: rugged individualism and bootstrapping success, toughness and pluck, firm devotion to Christian family values, a commitment to the cause of life, and the kind of folk wisdom that cannot be gained through graduate degrees but is packaged in common sense and reinforced through the experience of a hardscrabble life. Palin also represents the blue-collar and no-collar ideal of a leader who comes up from the general ranks in a time of great trial in order to restore sanity and common-sense clarity to a government gone mad.

For the cultural elitists on the Left, Palin lacks everything they pride themselves on possessing, possesses everything they pride themselves on scorning, and stands for everything they pride themselves on opposing. She lacks cosmopolitan tastes and elite university credentials, a well-worn passport and fluency in foreign tongues, a blueblood vocabulary and literary speech patterns, not to mention a fashionable address and a vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard. She possesses a beauty-queen title and the wrong kind of good looks, a large brood of lily-white children with outdoorsy names like Track and Piper, a commoner’s cadence and a steady supply of you-betcha folksy phrases, and a background in conservative white evangelical and even Pentecostal churches. And she stands for the defense of the unborn, for heterosexual marriage, for premarital abstinence, for the extraction of our natural resources, for small government and second amendment rights, for conservative Judeo-Christian traditions and for American exceptionalism.

Dalrymple makes the case that Ms. Palin has become the personification of the ongoing culture wars.  While it’s no secret where Dalrymple is on this issue, he does have some cautionary notes for both the left and the right:

There are cautionary notes here both for the Left and for the Right. The Left should understand that their scorn for Sarah Palin is of the same stream as their scorn for a wide swath of fellow Americans. It does not show their good side. Progressives of good will can recognize, I think, that they dislike Palin in part because they dislike the kind of people who support Palin, the kind of people she represents. The stereotypes and prejudices made manifest in their hatred for Palin are deeply unbecoming, and only serve to fuel the devotion to Palin for many on the Right.

For the Right, the cautionary note is this. It is partly because so much of the opposition to her is cultural that we also find high-culture conservatives who dislike her, from Peggy Noonan and Barbara Bush to Michael Gerson and Karl Rove. But Palin supporters would be mistaken if they assumed that this was the only reason why Republican elites are wary. There are legitimate concerns about her experience in national and international matters, her electability, and her political judgment. These are not the insults of enemies, but the concerns of friends. Is Sarah Palin the best electable candidate from the conservative ranks? And even if she were electable, would she, amongst all the electable candidates, make the best President? Even if we like her, and even if we could get her elected, should we? Is she ready for what is arguably the toughest and most consequential job in the world, the performance of which could lead to prosperity or to calamity for our country?

Palin is the proxy for the ongoing culture war and I’m beginning to think that the culture war distract us from bigger issues that really need attention.

The Man Trap

One of the knocks against blogger Andrew Sullivan is his fascination with Sarah Palin, to point of wondering whether or not her youngest child is really hers or not.  He has been pilloried on the right for this, but he has also recieved a few knocks from the center and the left as well for writing about the former governor day-in and day-out. I know personally, I’ve not read Sullivan the way I used to once, and part of the reason comes from his staying focused on Palin.

Now it seems that David Frum is heading down the same path.  Frum is a smart-writer and thinker, and I’ve been pleased to have some of my writings show up at FrumForum.  But lately he has also been focusing on Palin a bit too much. 

It’s been puzzling enough to me to wonder why Palin has become such a fixation on the Left, but it is even moreso a mystery why some centrists and conservatives are also obessesed with her.

I’ve been wondering why Sullivan and Frum are so Palin-obessed.  Why do we care about woman that didn’t even serve a term for governor?  Why do folks who used to be or are on the right want to pore through every book she’s written and watch her reality TV series?

I asked this question to frequent commenter Bubbaquimby who replies:

I think they see in her the manifestation of everything they see that is wrong with the GOP (anti-elite, very socially conservative, uncompromisable, more rhetoric than substance, etc). So they see themselves as heroes off to slay the evil dragon.

For one they are just preaching to the choir and in someways go off the deep end with craziness (more so Sullivan). They have really convinced themselves that she has a chance of winning the nomination. I just don’t see it, granted I don’t even think she will run.

But what I find odd is, wouldn’t they want her to win? I mean her getting trounced by Obama in some ways would be the best thing to moderate GOP. It would be like what Mondale/Dukakis did for the Dems.  It finally killed off the old left.

To which I say: yup.  Sullivan and Frum are the only ones obessed with Palin, but for those who are worried about the direction the Republican Party is taking, Palin provides away to package all those fears into one person.  She becomes the living embodiement of the modern GOP.  Now that we have a known demon, we can hurl all our hate towards it and feel like something is getting done.

In a slightly more odd take, the blogger zomblog thinks there is a sexual thing going on with Palin- haters.  I don’t know if I buy his take, his point  that seeing her as some kind of sexy, evil bully gives the opponent a sort of moral superiority makes a whole lot of sense.

But while it might make the opponent feel good, I wonder if it also prevents said person from actually doing anything else.  Palin obession reminds me of the Star Trek episode called “The Man Trap.”  A creature that needs salt shapeshifts into attractive women to lure men.  She then is able to extract the salt from the men leaving them dead.

So it is with Palin obession.  People are drawn to her and start attacking her.  They build her up as an unstoppable threat to GOP and to America.  It drains the energy of fellow conservatives from focusing on how to reform conservatism.  Why do you want to talk about tax policy or new ideas, when you can focus on what is seemingly the source of all your problems?

Sarah Palin isn’t the source of all that’s wrong in the GOP.  The problems are pretty complex and the solutions even moreso.  But the more we all focus on her every move the more power she draws from us.

As Bubba notes, focusing so much on what’s wrong with the GOP and/or conservatism is a dangerous game.  Conservative critics start focusing so much on what’s wrong with conservatism, the stop focusing on what’s right.  That’s what happened with Andrew Sullivan.  He righly focused on some of the drawbacks of modern conservatism, but then started focusing on them so much that conservatism became nothing more than its weaknesses and not its strengths.

If there is one conservative writer that has learned not to focus on Palin, it would be David Brooks.  He has written about the GOP and conservatism’s shortcomings, but he has also written about what is good with conservatism and has provided some ideas to boot.

In the end, if conservatism is to be reformed, we have to move forward and not get tied up in distractions like Sarah Palin.  Don’t fall for her lures.

How Can the GOP “Man Up” Against Sarah Palin?

Joe Scarborough tells the GOP to “man up” and take on Sarah Palin:

Republicans have a problem. The most-talked-about figure in the GOP is a reality show star who cannot be elected. And yet the same leaders who fret that Sarah Palin could devastate their party in 2012 are too scared to say in public what they all complain about in private.

Enough. It’s time for the GOP to man up.

What man or mouse with a fully functioning human brain and a résumé as thin as Palin’s would flirt with a presidential run? It makes the political biography of Barack Obama look more like Winston Churchill’s, despite the fact that the 44th president breezed into the Oval Office as little more than a glorified state senator.

Still, Palin is undeterred, charging ahead maniacally while declaring her intention to run for the top office in the land if “nobody else will.” Adding audacity to this dopey dream is that Palin can’t stop herself from taking swings at Republican giants. In the past month alone, she has mocked Ronald Reagan’s credentials, dismissed George H.W. and Barbara Bush as arrogant “blue bloods” and blamed George W. Bush for wrecking the economy.

Wow. That’ll win ’em over in Iowa.

Scarborough goes on to say Palin isn’t stupid, but then goes on to say just that. 

Scarborough’s op-ed is red meat for those of us that don’t like Palin and think she should be no where near the White House.  I can see this article getting a lot of play for that very reason.  But the thing is, if the only idea to tackle Palin is to basically call her a two-bit bimbo from Alaska, then you might as well crown her to the 2012 nominee right now.  Scarborough’s ire might make one feel good, but it won’t do anything to tackle Palin’s rise.

It’s interesting that in the article Scarborough brings up Ronald Reagan.  Reagan was pilloried by the Left when he ran in 1980 as being dumb.  You can see how well their plan worked: the Gipper got elected to two terms.

If the Left failed in getting the public to see Reagan as stupid, I can tell you those within the GOP who want to use this tactic are also bound to fail.

The rise of Sarah Palin is not simply because she is some kind of bully; it’s also a sign of the times (the failure of the “smart guys”).  She represents the failure of institutions and the rise of Self, which is why she does so well on Facebook.

If we want to beat Palin, it has to be at her own game.  It won’t be won by being sensible or mad, but by using charisma, street smarts and social media in ways that most candidates have not done before.  And we are going to have to do something Palin doesn’t do, instill a sense of trust in America again (remember Morning in America?).

Calling Palin white trash might feel good, but frankly,  I want to see some game plans from her detractors instead.

Sarah Palin’s Enablers

Why does Sarah Palin seem to command such attention?

Palin,  as media critic Howard Kurtz reports, is a crafty person when it comes using the media.  Somehow, she is able to get most of the mainstream media to hang on her every word and watch her Facebook and Twitter sites for her latest views as if one were waiting for white smoke from St. Peter’s to announce a new Pope.

Part of the reason that the press and most of the political establishment tend to focus on the former governor is because they want to take her down.  Think of blogger Andrew Sullivan and his years-long focus on all things Palin.  The media, liberals and moderate conservatives all want to show that she’s a fake, an idiot; not presidential timber. 

I would agree with all this, and yet she hasn’t gone away.  Why?

I think Palin came along at the right time in American history.  If we were in an alternative universe where there were no wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, where there never was a housing bubble or Great Recession, there might have been no Sarah Palin, or at least, Palin would still be an obscure governor from a small state.  Continue reading

Science, Innovation and the GOP

There are a few stories on science and the Republican party this morning that you should read if you have the chance. Former GOP congressman and environmentalist Sherwood Boehlert of New York chides his party for becoming a party of climate change deniers:

Watching the raft of newly elected GOP lawmakers converge on Washington, I couldn’t help thinking about an issue I hope our party will better address. I call on my fellow Republicans to open their minds to rethinking what has largely become our party’s line: denying that climate change and global warming are occurring and that they are largely due to human activities.

National Journal reported last month that 19 of the 20 serious GOP Senate challengers declared that the science of climate change is either inconclusive or flat-out wrong. Many newly elected Republican House members take that position. It is a stance that defies the findings of our country’s National Academy of Sciences, national scientific academies from around the world and 97 percent of the world’s climate scientists.

It’s a great article in stating the case that while we can disagree on how best combat climate change (ie: supporting “cap and trade” or not), it is foolhardy to ignore the science behind it.

Meanwhile, Tevi Troy talks about how highly educated folks are leaving the GOP because it seems hostile to science, innovation and free trade. He presents five good ideas that the Republicans can glom on to that doesn’t also   upset the evangelical base of the party.

With President Obama’s job-approval ratings in free fall, Republicans feel justifiably confident about the 2010 congressional elections. But even if the GOP has recovered some swagger, the party’s long-term political fortunes require it to recover something else: the votes of well-educated, well-compensated elites. Over the past decade and a half, Republicans have watched scientists, high-tech workers, doctors, financial leaders, and academics in engineering and business abandon the party in favor of the Democrats. This exodus has weakened the GOP politically and left it dependent on white evangelical voters. But the elites’ home could again be the Republican Party—if the Republicans welcome them back.

Troy has some great ideas, and good insight into how the GOP was not always so hostile to those with advanced degrees.

Finally is a blog post by Rick Moran on how science is being used by the Left to advance their agenda as well as being attacked by the Right .

All of these are good articles, but I wonder if anyone in the party will take heed of them.  The GOP is winning right now, inspite of its lack of any agenda.  For a party that was declared dead two years ago, there is a strong temptation to believe everything is okay and that 2006 and 2008 were but mere blips in American politics. 

The second concern is the anti-elite mood within the GOP and its manifestation in Sarah Palin.  The base of the party tends to shun those with smarts, so a wonky solution to problems is not on the party radar at this time.  Palin connects with folks not because she is the smartest gal in the room, but because she is “one of us.”  Unlike Ronald Reagan, who had a common guy persona as well as a curious mind, Palin at least doesn’t present herself as someone the least bit interested in ideas and that seems to resonate with folk.

So will the GOP listen?  I don’t know.

Reform the GOP; Not Conservatism

Commenter Bubbaquimby responds to my post on David Frum possibly leaving conservatism:

I guess instead of trying to reform conservative, I would rather have him reform the GOP. And there is a big difference between the two.
Conservatives know they can win the GOP and can also win in most non-presidential years by just being true to their rhetoric (small gov’t, fiscal responsibility, etc). Because they have such a large ID (41%).

However that won’t always be the case and Frum knows it, but instead of talking about why moderates and center-right people should become more active and start taking principled stands against right wingers, he says why conservatives should change.

I don’t think conservatives are going to change (well on social stuff I think they will but only because of time). I think the only way to help the GOP is to actually start working for moderates instead of continuing to just be a critic of the right. When you have valid conservative reasons for things, use them and if they are moderate than own that too. You need to tell why your vision is better than any Democratic vision.

For instance I tend to be a paleo when it comes to foreign policy, there is a long tradition of it in the party, I don’t have to take being called a liberal dove, their the ones that have used a Wilsonian foreign policy to get us in two unending wars and erosion of our civil liberties.

The moderates and moderate-conservatives need to man up as they all say these days, stop blaming conservatives for all the problems, stop being afraid of the RINO call. It’s conservatives that are RINO’s because they only care about the conservative movement and not the party. I guess I just tend to agree with the Douthat/Salem way (even if I don’t agree with their book) give reasons to change the party, not changing ideology.

I think Bubbaquimby is right on.  I think the problem here is that people like Frum (and I have to count myself in this mix)tend take on too big of a task in reforming conservatism and not simply the party.  Conservatism is made up a big institutions such as think tanks and media organizations which have been built up over the last four decades or so.  It is a hard to task to try to change institutions that have in effect become ossified.  Such tasks lead to disillusionment.

But maybe we need to focus on a smaller task and start looking at setting up new institutions that can provide an alternative vision.  What if there were new think tanks and media sources that provided a new vision within the GOP?  What if we stopped focusing on Sarah Palin for a moment and start working on getting credible people to run in the GOP for state and national offices. 

Bubbaquimby is right: those of us who fashion ourselves as dissidents need to “man up” and stop whining about what conservatives are doing wrong.  We aren’t going to change them, but we can change the party.

It’s time to quite complaining and start building.